You'd think a couple of California kids would seem out of place here, but Rooney seemed to fit perfectly beneath the New York skyline as they played a few songs for us on the shores of the East River. Downtown Manhattan and the Brooklyn Bridge provided the perfect backdrop for a simple acoustic arrangement of "When Did Your Heart Go Missing", as well as two brand new songs off their latest album, Eureka. Outfitted in sunglasses and even an American flag guitar, the band breezed through their set as onlookers wandered around the river's edge. By the end, it was tough to imagine the effortless cool of Rooney playing anywhere else but Brooklyn. - Joe Puglisi
here in Brooklyn Bridge Park. And we're going to play some songs. Some acoustic numbers for you. And anyway, it's a nice day. A lot of noise, a lot of atmosphere, but it's going to be fun. One, two, three. You're looking at me. You're lost in a stare. Well I have to admit I didn't know you were there. We're trying our best to keep this alive. But neither one of us knows how to survive. I push you. I pull you. I hurt you. I argue. I don't want to lose you. I don't want to lose you. I fight you. I hold you. I hate you. I still love you. I don't want to lose you. I don't want to think about yesterday. I know what I said. But the more you put up with me the worse I get. Come on and teach me a lesson. Make me regret the things I said. I push you. I pull you. I hurt you. I argue. I don't want to lose you. I don't want to lose you. I fight you. I hold you. I hate you. I still love you. I don't want to lose you. I don't want to lose you. It's not you, it's not me, it's just something we can't see. I'm giving up, giving in, yeah, I'm gonna let it be. Ah. Ah. I don't want to lose you. I don't want to lose you. I don't want to lose you. I don't want to lose you. I don't want to lose you. I don't want to lose you. I don't want to lose you. I don't want to lose you. - It's a song that we actually recorded with the producer that did our last record, and then we did it with Mitchell Froom another producer friend of ours this awesome, amazing producer. And we tried the song with two different producers, and it sort of gave us a taste of what we could do with these different guys, and it sort of was the real test song that we finally said, "Let's just do it on our own. " We felt like we could find the middle ground with that song, which we think we did, of having something that had the character of the band and also it felt like was produced enough to where it felt like a nice sounding pop, rock and roll song. It wasn't underproduced or overproduced. And so that song, it's the first song we gave away off our record online. And it was the first song our fans heard from our new record so they really liked it apparently. "I Can't Get Enough" is the first single off our record. It's a song that we didn't record in the original batch of material that we set out to record, but after judging what we had done and wanting to beat what we had done we recorded three more songs. And one of them ended up being a single. I like what you wear and I like how you move. If I was staring, it's because I'm in the mood. I'm down with your love. Come on hold out your hand. I'll take you where I'm going. You wanna see the promised land? I tell you yes. You tell me no. I ask you why, you never let me know. You close your eyes. I hold you tight. It's no surprise I've got nowhere to go. Even if I try-try, if I lie, you're never gonna leave, leave me alone. I'm going home. You call my bluff. I can't get enough. I can't get enough. So don't get enough. Can't get enough. So Give me a little time. Take my mind anywhere. Put on something special, anything I don't care. Just don't tell your friends. There's nothing left to see. Because if it gets around, it gets around, it's the end of me. I tell you yes. You tell me no. I ask you, "Why?" You never let me know. You close your eyes. I hold you tight. But it's no surprise I've got nowhere to go. Even if I try-try, if I lie, you're never gonna leave, leave me alone. I'm going home. You call my bluff. I can't get enough. I can't get enough. So can't get enough. I can't get enough. So can't get enough. Can't get enough. So can't get enough. I can't get enough. So no-no. Don't blame yourself, maybe I had too much to drink. One less margarita, one more trip to the shrink. I tell you yes. You tell me no. I ask you, "Why?" You never let me know. You close your eyes. I hold you tight. But it's no surprise I got nowhere to go. Even if I try-try, if I lie, you're never gonna leave, leave me alone. I'm going home. You call my bluff. I can't get enough. I can't get enough. So can't get enough. I can't get enough. So can't get enough. I can't get enough. So can't get enough. Can't get enough. So can't get enough. I can't, I can't. This record is being released on our own label. We did it at my house like a home studio. We produced it, engineered it and it's just coming from sort of where we came from to sort of mixing it up completely to making this record the way we made it. It's just sort of how we wanted to operate. Before we got signed, we used to make records on our own and make merch and tour and do things all in-house. to do things DIY because it really represents who you are as closely as it possibly can. - I mean also, like, people make records at home today. You make it on whatever. GarageBand or a little minidisc. I don't know, different recording devices out there. So it's kind of what's happening with artists today, but it was cool to be able to make a record we think is the best-sounding record we've ever made in a home studio. The sounds were great, the vibe was right, and I think it beats the two other Rooney releases for sure, so-- - I mean it was challenging but the benefits definitely outweigh the hardships. I mean we could do a take of a song or whatever, go outside and there's a kumquat tree right outside the studio. So you do a take, go outside, grab a kumquat, pop it in. It's great. - Life is great. - Life is good. Love don't come so easily. This doesn't have to end in tragedy. I have you and you have me. We're one in a million, why can't you see? I'm waiting, waiting for nothing. You're leaving, leaving me hanging. When did your heart go missing? When did your heart go missing? I treat you like a princess but you're life is just one big mess. When did your heart go missing? When did your heart go missing? Yeah. I meant every word I said. I never was lying when we talked in bed. I'm retracing every step in my head. What did I miss back then? I was so, so misled. I'm waiting, waiting for nothing. You're leaving, leaving me hanging. When did your heart go missing? When did your heart go missing? I treat you like a princess but your life is just one big mess. When did your heart go missing? When did your heart go missing? I don't understand. How could you forget what we had? It's so wrong. I'm waiting, waiting for nothing. You're leaving, leaving me hanging. When did your heart go missing? When did your heart go missing? I treat you like a princess but your life is just one big mess. When did your heart go missing? When did your heart go missing? Yeah. Things were so good. We had a little dream. A little dream together. Getting LeBron James to the Knicks. Have a little house in the woods. But you disappeared on me, baby, and your heart, your heart went missing. I don't know how to find it. I don't know where it is. I don't know where your little heart went. I'm gonna call the police. Call the NYPD. When did your heart go missing? - It's a song that sort of saved the day on our last record, because we made three records and only put one out. So there are two that were shelved and it's because the songs weren't there and it just wasn't clicking, and "When Did Your Heart Go Missing" sort of was the song that green lit our record with our old label and gave us a record release. And then the last song we played is called "Stars and Stripes" and it's one of the songs on the record that I think stands out to be a different sound for us. And I think it still works in our band but it's just a different kind of vibe and a lot of people kind of gravitate towards that song and it's a song I like to play people right away just because it's kind of different. So a blend. It's gonna take the world to change. It's time to start helping each other. There's nobody left to take the blame. We're all gonna have to take it together. The stars and stripes beyond the sky. They're painting that patriotic light who said you were wrong to choose what you face to lose? We can do better. It's gonna take the world to change. It's time to start helping each other. There's nobody left to take the blame. We're all gonna have to take it together. Don't be afraid, there's nothing to fear. There's only so little time my dear. What have we gained at the end of the day? Just a bill that we can't pay. So what's the point in running? Everyone's got something they don't want. So tell me, what have you done with all that freedom you sit on? Come on, go and take it all for granted. To change. It's time to start helping each other. There's nobody left to take the blame. We're all gonna have to take it together.
You can go ahead and call Rooney's new album, Eureka, their declaration of independence. After several years trudging under the weight of a major label deal that never quite fit them right, the Los Angeles band is making a bold, fresh start: Rooney recorded and produced Eureka themselves, and will be releasing the disc June 8th on their own new label, California Dreamin' Records through Warner Music Group's Independent Label Group. The 12-track Eureka is their most mature, nuanced collection yet, and still retains their classic buoyancy and catchiness.
Eleven years after they started the band as teenaged friends with a shared love of the Beatles, Cheap Trick and ELO, lead singer and guitarist Robert Schwartzman, keyboard player / vocalist Louie Stephens, guitarist / vocalist Taylor Locke, and drummer / vocalist Ned Brower have grown into a modern power-pop band in a class of their own. Over the years, they've toured with everyone from Weezer and The Strokes, winning new fans among all those audiences. "I don't think there are any modern bands that we have much in common with," says Locke.
Though Eureka is, in many ways, a rebirth for Rooney, the independent spirit behind it is nothing new for the band, which began in 1999, when its members were still in high school. During their early years, the band self-produced and promoted a series of EPs and built themselves a massive hometown fan base by gigging as often as they could in local LA clubs. Their self-titled debut album, released in May 2003, maintained a solid presence on Billboard's New Artists chart for several months, and then shot up in 2004 following a performance on teen dramedy The O.C., known for its taste-making assortment of music from critically acclaimed new bands who had yet to make it mainstream. Slowly and steadily over the course of two years, Rooney's debut disc amassed sales of nearly 500,000 copies.
They began making their second album in 2004, and in the three years that followed, they recorded three album's worth of material before finally releasing Calling The World in 2007. The problem, the band explains, was the ongoing pressure from their label, Geffen/Interscope, to come up with a hit song. Producers shuttled in and out, songs were recorded then trashed, and Rooney's members say they became increasingly discouraged. The long lag between albums may not have hurt their sales Calling The World debuted #42 on The Billboard Top 100 Albums chart and lead single "Where Did Your Heart Go Missing" went to #1 in Germany and in the Top 10 in Italy, France, Ireland and The Netherlands - but it definitely took a toll on their morale.
"The whole culture of major labels is to just keep fucking with shit instead of getting something from an artist that's their vision and supporting it and putting it out and promoting it, the old fashioned way," says Locke. "We've heard our story from other bands a million times, where you've got the label telling you remix, re-record, try a different producer, try an outside songwriter, do it here, we're pushing it back to spring, back to summer, fall -- it's never-ending."
"The pressure of always having to think about what's going to be 'the hit,'" says Schwartzman, "and all those ideas were interfering with the process of trying to make music that felt really good and felt like it was coming from a good, true place." Finally, last spring, Rooney parted ways with the label.
The guys started recording Eureka in April of 2009, in a new studio Schwartzman built into his Los Angeles home. "I think the biggest thing I learned working with all the different producers is that you don't need to be in a big fancy studio spending $2,000 a day to make a record that sounds great," says Schwartzman,. "We whittled down the list of things you need to make a record and it became a much more realistic list of things to purchase and use." The process of writing and tracking new material happened more organically than ever before, and though Rooney were excited to be making their first album on their own, they didn't want to rush it. "We didn't record every day of the week, and we didn't record months consistently," says Schwartzman. "We wrote for awhile and then we stopped and then there was more writing, and some more songs were written and recorded once we'd done the original batch of songs."
Yet they didn't want to become complacent, in the absence of outside scrutiny. "We did try to A&R ourselves through the process -- to question the songs, the flow of the recordings, and to ask ourselves, 'Can we beat this, can we beat that?'" the singer notes. "We didn't want to just settle for the songs we had. The thing I was most afraid of going into it wasn't 'Can we make good-sounding music?' It was, "Can we pull out of ourselves what we need to pull out to make great music?' I think if you get too hung up on gear and everything, it's still not really about the songs and the emotion and everything that's happening. I was happy that we were actually able to say to ourselves, 'I don't think we have a first single,' as much as that was so annoying to hear all those years.'"
"Part of the fun was just indulging our influences," says Stephens. "One of the reasons I'm happy with the record is that I think we were able to do that in a lot of different, varied ways. "Holding On" has kind of a [Tom] Petty vibe to the arrangement, and "Only Friend" and "Into the Blue" have more of a psychedelic thing that we hadn't fully done before. 'The Hunch" is kind of a balls-out rock song, and "I Can't Get Enough" has got a little bit of a rhythmic thing."
Schwartzman admits he had Petty in mind when he was writing the song. "I was watching Running Down a Dream, the Tom Petty documentary, and it was really inspiring," he says. "I didn't realize how much of Tom Petty's influences came from a lot of the stuff I really love, which is Fifties and early Sixties pop stuff, just great old songs that are simple and really straightforward. I really like that, and I love the simplicity in the storytelling and the lyric-writing. Afterward, I just wanted to sit down and write, and 'Holding On' and 'You're What I'm Looking For' came out of that."
Petty's inspiration served him well: "Holding On," the track that opens Eureka, is not only a classic Rooney-style sing-along, it's also the song that articulates, most directly, how the band has come to view its past, present and future. A first-person narrative, the song tells "the story of how we met, how this band started," describing how he moved to New York for college but soon came home just to continue with Rooney. "And the pre-chorus talks about being wined and dined by all the managers and the lawyers and the agents," he continues. "And the lyric goes, 'It's just another meal, I'm fat with regret, placing my bet on me.' The music industry is such a dirty little world, and we've heard our story from bands a million times, but the song about holding on when you're on the edge of something is a wake-up call for us, about entering a new place, a new phase of our career, and breaking away."